Review by Archmonk Iga
"With Prototype, excellent ideas are mashed up with questionable execution."
As every true gamer knows, we all have our slumps. We're not in the mood to play anything we've already been through, and in some way or another we aren't able to play anything new. While in one of these slumps, I had seen Prototype sitting among my brother's videogame collection. I thought it looked pretty cool so I played it.
As Alex Mercer, you are thrown into the mad streets of Manhattan. You possess uncanny powers that no human should possess. And before you know it, Alex is waking up in a hospital bed from a few weeks earlier. Such begins an exciting frame story in Prototype.
When Alex wakes up, he sees two doctors about to operate on him. He quickly escapes, and as you get more into the game, the story grows to a much larger scale. Turns out, Alex wasn't in a hospital, Manhattan's citizens are slowly but surely becoming infected with some strange disease, the military is going bonkers, and Alex Mercer seems to be the only person with these strange new powers. He therefore makes it his responsibility to find out what is going on with the city, as well as figure out the secrets behind the organization that made his body this way.
It is in many ways a very intriguing plot. Unfortunately, there are countless aspects that make it laughably bad and about as far from edge-of-your-seat as possible. First off, Alex is perhaps the lamest protagonist I have played as since Marcus Fenix in Gears of War. His voice is so forcibly deep that such an attempt at being badass only brings in limitless chuckles. And what's with his wardrobe? With that fat hoodie on all the time, we don't even know what Alex looks like! He's a damn New Yorker, not some mysterious ninja.
Speaking of New Yorkers, they are not that dumb. If I lived on an island and there was a crazy virus outbreak, I would get the hell outta dodge. But if I couldn't do that, I would most DEFINITELY stay indoors, away from people as much as possible. Yet this is the opposite of what the citizens in Prototype do. They're all walking around leisurely as if nothing is going on in the world, and they seemed shocked when they're around areas full of action. Seems Prototype forgot to patch up some holes in its story.
It doesn't end there. The cutscenes are absolutely awful. These are possibly the most awkward character interactions I have ever seen in a current-gen game. Even scenes with Alex's sister and ex-girlfriend (which there are many of) are terribly produced, written and directed.
But wait, there's more. The story itself would work fine by having us progress through the missions. But there is a part of the gameplay called The Web of Intrigue, which has you collecting the memories involving the story from various people throughout Manhattan. Some of these WoI moments are mandatory, but many are optional and can be found all throughout the island. It's a pretty cool idea, but this is a web. Before you know it, this otherwise simple story becomes unnecessarily convoluted and unorganized.
A true highlight for Prototype, the graphics are very well done. Manhattan, while not what it really looks like, is given loads and loads of cool scenery, from the buildings to the parks. Although when you get up close to the buildings you don't see a whole lot more than cardboard rectangles, you have to appreciate the sheer number of them throughout the island. Alex's model is the best part of the graphics, but it sucks that the detail goes to waste with such a ridiculous outfit. His powers are super-cool, though. The other main characters look decent, and while the NPCs walking around are quite varied, they lack detail. There's lots of blood too, which is always nice.
There is very little music in Prototype unless the action picks up, which brings in some typical rockin' jams for this type of game. At other times you could be doing your thing (you know, running up to the tops of buildings and gliding back down to the ground), and the music would suddenly fade in and out real quickly. I see what they're doing with that (many other games follow the no action=silence and action=music method), but their system seemed a little faulty. The sound effects are very well done, especially with Alex's unique powers. Last and least are the voices. Aside from Alex's hilariously failed anti-hero mumble, all the other characters sound just about as bad. Pair up awful voice acting with bad writing (the F word is used in pretty much every sentence I know this is Manhattan, but seriously?), and it brings the experience down that much more.
Playing as Alex Mercer grants you seemingly limitless opportunities. It is truly a feel-good game despite the grim atmosphere. In the city Alex can run up walls, jump super high and even glide like a bird to get to where he needs to be. And while you'll be doing this throughout the whole game, it never gets old. There's just something about such a twist on sandbox gameplay that makes it so worthwhile. Travelling alone is probably what makes Prototype worth playing.
In combat, Alex is capable of seemingly limitless powerful attacks that utilize his newly found abilities. As you gain more and more evolution points to spend, you will be finding yourself very excited to purchase new moves to use on your enemies. These moves are simply mindblowingthrust your hand into the ground to force deadly spikes out from under foes in the distance, stretch out your arms to make a deadly whip-like weapon, and much, much more. As lame as Alex is, he sure can do some kick-ass moves. Unfortunately, once you get a certain really good ability, the only reason you'd go back to the others is for a little variety.
And did I mention his other abilities? With his superhuman strength, throwing entire pickup trucks at raiding helicopters never gets old. He can also disguise himself as basically anybody in town (he has to kill them first, of course), which means he can easily sneak into military bases or other otherwise unreachable places. Disguise may be useful, but it's not really that fun. It gets kind of frustrating when the only thing holding you back is an onscreen message saying you need to disguise yourself to proceed.
But how do you proceed? Through missions, of course. And while these missions certainly take advantage of Alex's sweet abilities, they are far from new and exciting. The combat is usually fun and challenging, don't get me wrong, but we need some diversity in this crazy world of mission-based videogames. Oh, and of course there are the always-terrible escort/protect so-and-so missions. Joy.
There are a lot of optional missions as well. A lot of optional missions. And you know what that meansrepetitive optional missions. Most of them are races against the clock in some way or another, and they are fun the first few times. You will quickly grow bored of them, though, and unless you're a completionist you'll forget all about them before you reach the game's halfway point. On the other hand, there are optional missions that involve a good level of entertainment and reward. Infiltrating military bases and disposing of enemy hives may take you out of your way to get started, but they are extremely chaotic and full of utter mayhem.
And while controlling Alex is indeed fun and visually awesome, there are some control issues. Certain button commands are completely ridiculous, and thankfully the worst of the worst are rarely (if ever) needed. But even some of the common moves have issuesthe gliding power comes to mind. You're supposed to land gently on the ground to avoid any attention when you glide, but this is rarely the case. It usually doesn't start any trouble, but when it does it's a true pain in the ass.
You probably think I sound pretty split when it comes to Prototype's gameplay, and you're right. With every gameplay aspect that succeeds in Prototype, there is also a high chance of failure. There are no doubt major draws to turning on Prototype over and over again, but there are also a number of setbacks.
On its own, Prototype can last you somewhere between 15 and 30 hours. With the abundance of optional missions, you can add on many more. There is also a New Game+ option for people who would like massive destruction as early on in the story as possible. Other than that, there is not much else that adds to replayability.
REPLAY VALUE: 6/10
A compelling story with horrid execution, a terrible cast, broken controls and repetitive optional missions is one half of Prototype. A freeing sense of limitless power to fly and combat is the other half. Unfortunately, you can't take one without the other.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 02/16/10
Game Release: Prototype (US, 06/09/09)
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